Gabrielle Hovendon, GA
Recently, Gabrielle’s fiction has appeared in publications including The Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, Cincinnati Review, Southwest Review, and more. She currently lives in a bright green apartment in Athens, Georgia, where she’s a PhD student and writing instructor in the English department at the University of Georgia. Prior to moving south, she lived in Spain, England, Ohio, New York City, and Northern New York, where she was born and raised. She loves music, having played piano and flute since she was young, and is also very fond of knitting, skiing, painting, and long, meandering walks.
As a Story Terrace writer, Gabrielle interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.
Americans in Paris
I’ve always loved to travel, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a fair amount of it in my life. I’ve visited museums in Madrid, Munich, and Paris and taken walks through rural Ireland and up the Amalfi Coast. I’ve gone on volunteer trips in Mexico and Bulgaria, and I’ve even spent time living in England and Northern Spain… but I’ve rarely felt so stupid in my travels as I did when I visited Paris with my younger sister.
It was a bitterly cold, windy February day when we set off from London, but we had high hopes for the trip anyway. The moment we left, though, the fiascos began. We’d packed sandwiches for the trip but had left them on a park bench. We’d made a reservation for a hotel in Paris but found out when we got there that the clerk had mistakenly booked us for one night instead of three. We got stuck in the elevator with an enormously rotund Frenchman on the way up to our room, and the key broke off in the door when we tried to open it.
Paris, we discovered, was not quite as accommodating as England.
Still, we made the most of our few days there. We toured Notre Dame (the tower was closed due to ice); we visited Versailles (a fire drill left us standing in the sleet and rain for nearly an hour); we visited the Louvre (it was too crowded to see the Mona Lisa); and, by the end of a long trip, we were famished.
We found a restaurant near the Champs-Élysées and, with the frigid Paris wind blowing us nearly sideways, staggered inside. The menus were in French, which neither my sister nor I could read, but we thought we recognized a familiar word: boeuf tartare. Steak, we agreed. Sounds delicious, we agreed.
After a few minutes, the waiter brought us our salads. Only they didn’t look like salads, exactly – more like a mushy red paste spread over lettuce – and we hadn’t actually ordered salads.
“Maybe this is just how they do salad in Paris,” I said, picking at the red hash dubiously. “When in France, right?”
But it was surprisingly savory, so we dug in. About halfway through the meal, our steaks nowhere in sight, my sister suddenly put down her fork.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I don’t think this is the salad,” she said slowly. “I think this is the main course.”
That was when it dawned on us. Boeuf tartare was meat, all right, but it wasn’t steak.
It was raw beef.
Mortified, we paid our check and fled the restaurant. We concluded our night by finding a Häagen-Dazs shop and ordering enormous ice cream sundaes. A decidedly un-Parisian supper – and yet it was the most délicieuse thing we’d eaten all week.
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